The Best Museums To Visit In Italy

If you're a museum lover hungry to get your cultural fix, you won't be disappointed while exploring the beautiful country of Italy. Italy's arts and culture scene is one of the most notorious on the planet. Remember all those magnificent pieces of art that you learned about in school — the ones you may have thought you'd only ever see through photographs? Many of those world-famous art pieces and historic sites are conveniently located in Italy. You'll have the chance to see extraordinary works like "The Last Supper", "The Sistine Chapel," and Michelangelo's "David" statue on a trip to Italy. 

While it's true there are countless interesting museums in Italy, narrowing down which ones you'll visit can get a little overwhelming. After all, most travelers only have 10 days (or less) to explore on a vacation — and there are so many excellent museums in Italy to choose from. No worries, though, you can whittle down your list by combing through the following 15 best museums to visit in Italy right here. 

The Capitoline Museums (Rome)

Most first-time visitors to Italy start out their trip in the capital city of Rome. Almost immediately after they arrive in Rome, they head over to the Capitoline Museums. Located smack dab in the middle of the city, the Capitoline Museums are comprised of two different buildings that each offer a unique array of treasures to discover. It's best known for being the oldest museum on the entire planet. Seriously — The Capitoline Museums opened all the way back in 1471. That's more than 550 years in business! The museum holds some of ancient Rome's most notable paintings, statues, and other pieces of priceless art throughout history. 

The Capitoline claim to fame is its stunning statues, including "The Dying Gaul", the "Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius", the "Colossus of Constantine", "Furietti Centaurs", and "the Bust of Medusa". You'll really get a feel for Rome's influence and backstory through artifacts at the Capitoline Museums. Its vast collection of exquisite Roman art and notoriety as the oldest museum out there makes the Capitoline one of the world's most cherished museums. You can't get the true experience of a trip to Rome without visiting this gem of a museum.

Borghese Gallery and Museum (Rome)

Italy's capital city of Rome is home to many of the country's most famous museums, such as the Borghese Gallery and Museum. Originally established by the nephew of Pope Paul V, the Borghese Gallery is filled to the brim with renowned paintings and sculptures. Paintings like "The Deposition" by Raphael and "David With The Head of Goliath" by Caravaggio. Along with beautiful statues like the "Daphne and Apollo" and the "David" sculptures, both by the talented Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 

That's only the beginning, though. There are more than 800 different paintings and 100 sculptures tucked away at the Borghese Gallery. Plus, this Italian museum is worth a visit for more than just its incredible collection of masterpieces. It's also known for its huge, pristine garden that encompasses the area around the museum. Between the eminent artwork and the lush gardens, an afternoon at the Borghese Gallery and Museum is time well-spent on a vacation in Italy.

MAXXI - National Museum of 21st Century Art (Rome)

While Rome is best known for its ancient art and culture from centuries past, there is also plenty of modern work in this prized Italian city. One of the best places to dive into the city's modern art scene is the National Museum of 21st Century Art, also known as MAXXI. Even the building of the MAXXI museum itself is an esteemed piece of architectural art designed by a brilliant architect named Zaha Hadid. It stands out among other plain structures by incorporating various types of materials and shapes to create something completely original. So, it's definitely worth a visit when in Rome to see the exterior of the MAXXI Museum alone. 

Once you step inside the facade of the MAXXI museum, you'll stumble into a whole world of contemporary art and unique spaces. The complex includes the modern art museum itself, along with an auditorium, an architecture museum, a library, and open spots for temporary exhibits. You can get to know pieces from artists who work with varying mediums from architecture to photography. The MAXXI features more than 400 works from artists like Alighiero Boetti, Carlo Scarpa, William Kentridge, and Olivo Barbieri. It's a modern art haven that every aspiring artist or just intrigued tourist should visit at least once in their lives when they're in Italy.

The Vatican Museums (Vatican City)

Everyone has heard of the Vatican Museums and its legendary Sistine Chapel, but on a trip to Italy, you can actually visit this artistic wonder of the world for yourself. Okay, technically speaking, the Vatican Museums are located in the Vatican City State, which is independent of the country of Italy. However, the iconic Vatican Museums is still one of the most popular stops for visitors in Italy, so it makes the list of the best museums to visit when you're around the area. 

At this legendary museum complex, you'll have the chance to witness artistic and architectural wonders of the world, like the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. As you can imagine, the Vatican Museums get very busy with eager tourists who want to catch a glimpse of these famed works. While you're allowed to visit the museums on your own, it might be a better idea to join a tour that can provide early access to beat the crowds. Plus, tours come with a guide who can provide a deeper understanding of all the important pieces and places you're seeing. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Vatican Museums are closed on Sunday, except every last Sunday of the month when they open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., so make sure you plan around their holy schedule. 

The Uffizi Gallery (Florence)

Florence has quite a few of its own distinguished museums, starting with the Uffizi Gallery. Noted as one of the most outstanding museums that Italy has to offer, the Uffizi Gallery boasts an extensive and gorgeous art collection. You can quite literally take a stroll through history when you visit this Italian museum. Taking you past ancient sculptures from the Middle Ages, paintings from the Renaissance, and even some works from the modern era. 

Even if you know nothing about Italian attractions or artwork, you're probably a little familiar with some of the treasured works of art inside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Here you'll have the opportunity to discover pieces that are quite literally etched in history, like "The Birth of Venus" by Sandro Botticelli, "Annunciation" by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio, and "Doni Tondo" by Michelangelo. If you've ever wanted to get your eyeballs on a famous Italian artist's work, you can likely find it at the Uffizi Gallery. 

Accademia Gallery (Florence)

The Accademia Gallery is a relatively small museum located in Florence, but it boasts one of the most recognizable pieces of Renaissance art in the entire world — Michelangelo's "David" statue. Even for a tiny museum, having an exhibit that's so famous packs a punch and definitely makes it worth a visit. Yes, it's very true, the "David" statue is an intimidatingly iconic piece that's worth all the hype it gets and should warrant a visit.

Don't just run into the Accademia Gallery, snap a photo of David, and run out the door, though. There are a bunch of iconic works of art to peruse at this lovely, little gallery before you move on to the next museum in Italy. Make sure you stick around long enough to see some of the Accademia's other gems, like Michelangelo's "Slaves", "the Abduction of the Sabine Women", and the "Coronation of the Virgin" by Jacopo di Cione.

Bargello National Museum (Florence)

Most museums showcase history through artifacts and pieces of art. The Bargello National Museum in Florence, however, is part of the historical attraction itself. This extraordinary museum is housed in a building with more than 750 years of history and counting. Throughout those years, the structure has worn a lot of different hats, including living out days as a home to the city's police chief and even becoming a jail at one point. It wasn't until the 1800s that it was officially converted into a museum welcoming visitors. 

Today, the Bargello continues to live out its days as one of the foremost museums for sculpture work in the entire world, let alone just Italy. The museum is organized into a variety of rooms, including the Donatello room, the Michelangelo room, and the Verroccio room. Inside these rooms are sculptures that will leave your jaw dropped. Some of the most awe-inspiring pieces at the Bargello National Museum are Donatello's "Bronze David" and Michelangelo's "Bacchus". In addition to the most well-known pieces, you're bound to stumble across some more low-key wonders across the museum that are equally as enticing.

Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan)

Most travelers wouldn't consider a church to be an official museum, but Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie isn't just any ordinary church. Located right in the center of Milan, Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie is special. While it's not a museum in the traditional sense, it's home to one of the most widely recognized artworks in the world, "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci. The masterpiece provides an illuminating glimpse into the scene of Jesus and his followers eating one last dinner before his execution. 

You know the one. It's so influential that it still inspires new art and media today. The Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie and its famous "Last Supper" painting are even ranked as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. The notoriety of the "Last Supper" piece alone makes Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie a must-see when you're visiting Milan, Italy.

Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan)

If you want the chance to see some of Milan's best Renaissance and Baroque artwork, look no further than Pinacoteca di Brera. Actually, rectify that statement to being some of the best artwork on the planet. The Pinacoteca di Brera features an eclectic art collection with pieces that span from the 13th century to the 20th. There are some big-name artists tucked away in this museum too, like Giovanni Bellini, Raphael, and Caravaggio.

Even though the Pinacoteca di Brera parades a very impressive art collection, it's much less popular than some of Italy's other notorious museums. If you're the type of person who gets overwhelmed by hectic crowds at overly hyped museums, this might be the perfect solution for a trip to Italy. You'll still get to see all the glory of Italian artwork without having to bump shoulders with hoards of other tourists the entire time. 

The National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Naples)

If you need a break from the standard paintings and art museums in Italy, check out The National Archaeological Museum of Naples, also known as the MANN. The MANN is the king of imposing ancient statues and other forms of craftsmanship. On the first few floors of the museum, you'll get to know the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were wiped out by a volcano erupting thousands of years ago. 

You can get a little peak into these ancient civilizations through the mosaics and frescoes at the MANN Museum. There are also exhibits of bronze, glasswork, and ceramics. Along the way, you'll be educated (via movies and computer animations) about Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the tragedy that ended them. 

All in all, this museum offers some of the most massive, intricate, and beautiful pieces from history. If you end up wandering the MANN, don't leave without seeing the "Farnese Hercules", the "Battle of Alexander" mosaic, and the "Donarium of Dying Figures". You can see everything that the National Archaeological Museum of Naples has to offer for just 22 EUR, but for visitors under 18, it's completely free!

Capodimonte Palace and Museum (Naples)

Don't get sick of Italy's stunning artwork before spending at least an afternoon at the Capodimonte Palace and Museum located in the historic center of Naples. The building of the Capodimonte Museum itself has lived many lives. It started off as a palace that was created by the House of Bourbon dynasty. Back then, they used the place as a nice, little summer home and even as a hunting lodge. Since the 1950s, though, the Capodimonte Palace has been transformed into a world-class gallery and beloved museum that houses a boatload of significant pieces of Neapolitan artwork.

There is quite a lot of different artwork to see at this Italian Museum, featuring more than 47,000 pieces in total. The collection is also fairly diverse, including art that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages and contemporary art pieces all living peacefully under the same roof. The museum features works by powerhouses in the Italian art movement, such as Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Ribera, Artemisia Gentileschi, and more. So, no matter what your artistic tastes are, you'll find something that sparks your interest at the Capodimonte Museum.

Doge's Palace (Venice)

When you search for photos of pretty buildings in Europe, this place is bound to make an appearance. Often dubbed a Gothic architecture masterpiece, Doge's Palace is a popular stop for photographers who want an aesthetic shot to capture Venice in all its glory. It's easily one of the most luxurious museums in Italy and beyond. The building isn't just easy on the eyes, though, it also boasts a long, interesting history. Doge's Palace served as a headquarters for some of the country's most powerful leaders. 

After its time as a residence for influential people, the palace opened its museum exactly 100 years ago as of 2023. Now, you can visit the Doge's Palace for yourself to admire its opulence and rich history. Exploring the palace is like stepping into another era. From the exterior to the interior, this museum is a place of absolute beauty. In addition to the royal furnishings and grand architecture, Doge's Palace also features quite a few artistic wonders from people like Paolo Veronese, Giovanni Bellini, Jacopo Bassano, and Jacopo Tintoretto.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice)

You're probably the most familiar with the famous Guggenheim Museum in New York City, but there are actually five different Guggenheim Museums around the world. New York was just the first. Italy's version is called the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and it's located right in Venice. Just like all its other cousin Guggenheims, this one boasts a remarkable art collection. It's one of the best art museums in the entire city, showcasing works of European and American art from the 20th century. 

This museum is an especially cool visit because the personal collection is actually situated in the famous art collector Peggy Guggenheim's old house right on the Grand Canal of Venice. It adds an extra layer of intrigue to an already great museum knowing it's all inside the collector's real home. Peggy procured tons of legendary pieces, including pieces by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Berenice Abbott, Edmondo Bacci, and many more. You can see them all right here in Venice. 

Mole Antonelliana / The National Museum of Cinema (Turin)

This Italian museum is a bit of a two-for-one. The Mole Antonelliana is one of Turin's most recognizable landmarks, most easily distinguishable for its pointed top reaching toward the clouds. It stands out quite a bit from the rest of the Turin skyline. The building was adopted as a local monument that signified Italy's national unity. You can even get a different perspective from the top of the landmark by riding its panoramic lift that hoists you 278 feet above the ground. If you need some exercise, you can also take the stairs to this breathtaking terrace. 

However, there is more than initially meets the eye at this beautiful and meaningful landmark of Turin. Inside the Mole Antonelliana, there is a whole world to discover — The National Museum of Cinema. Historic art museums are all well and good, but eventually, you just need something different. That's when you book your ticket to this fun museum in Italy. The National Museum of Cinema will take you through the history and evolution of photography and filmmaking. Once you understand how it started, you'll also gain insight into where the film industry might be headed in the coming years. It's a completely engrossing and immersive experience that will hold the interest of adults and kids alike. Anyone from passionate film buffs to the regular movie fan will get a kick out of this Italian museum.

The Egyptian Museum (Turin)

Everyone learns about ancient Egypt when they're in school, but did you ever think you'd actually get the chance to see artifacts from this era right in front of you? You would think you'd need to make an excursion to Egypt itself to see artifacts of this caliber, but you can actually find them right in Italy at the Egyptian Museum of Turin. It holds one of the oldest collections of Egyptian artifacts that you can still find today, dating back more than 270 years. 

It started off with just a few hundred pieces at the establishment, but it's grown into something much larger. A comprehensive testament to Egyptian culture throughout history. Inside this fascinating museum, there are more than 4,000 years' worth of history to dive into, and 30,000 artifacts. These exhibits are the real deal, including a bunch of different human and animal mummies, statues of gods and goddesses, tombs, and even the ancient Temple of Ellesyia. If there is a little kid who is obsessed with Egyptian culture hiding deep in your soul, don't miss the opportunity to visit the Egyptian Museum in Italy.